The withdrawal of the London City service in early April, coupled with the link to Southampton ceasing in February has significantly affected Isle of Man Airport passenger traffic. Overall Airport passenger numbers in April, compared with the same month last year, reduced by over 1,500, a drop of 2.65%. Nearly 4,000 passengers used the London City route in April 2011 whilst this reduced to just over 1,000 last month. Similarly, the 1,330 passengers flying to and from Southampton last April were unable to use the service this year, giving a potential shortfall from the two routes of well over 5,000 passengers.
However, British Airways CityFlyer, the London City based arm of the national carrier, has announced that they will take over the London City route from the end of this month, restoring vitally needed South East capacity and a frequent City service to the Isle of Man air service network.
As the figures released by the Airport show, in the interim, many air travellers have meanwhile transferred to the Flybe Gatwick service which saw a sharp 20% increase in traffic in April. Passengers on the route were up by some 2,000 and flights to and from Gatwick throughout the month were three quarters full.
The April fall in passenger numbers follows a year of steady improved performance for the Airport with passenger numbers up by over 5% between April 2011 and March 2012. With the news that BA CityFlyer will be starting the London City service, David Cretney, Minister for Infrastructure, remains confident that the underlying trend of steady market improvement will return over the next few months.
'The loss of both routes recently, especially London City, has been a real blow to the Airport and the Island. A direct air link with central London, especially the City Financial Centre, is fundamental to the Island’s business and economy, and although there are many passengers who have been able to switch to Flybe’s excellent Gatwick route, with some flying via Luton, there is now a real shortfall of London capacity from the Isle of Man. Add to this the transfer of Southampton traffic to Gatwick, and the situation has become even more critical. I am therefore delighted that BA CityFlyer has decided to take up the London City route and I am sure that over the next few months, once the route has become re-established, the steady upward trend will again continue.'
Ann Reynolds, Airport Director highlighted the start of the Manx2.com London Oxford route earlier in the month, which will provide a good alternative for those flying to and from the West of London and Southern England.
'The start of this daily service to Oxford could not come at a better time. With easy road links to both Southampton and the M40 corridor to London, together with quick transit through the airport, Oxford provides a very attractive alternative for some travellers,'
'In addition, the weekly link to Norwich with Flybe franchise airline, Loganair, will offer a great alternative for those travelling to and from East Anglia – and Loganair have recently added extra flights in September to this obviously popular summer service'.
It is interesting to note that whilst the number of seats available between the Island and the South East has been cut by a staggering 37% recently, the decrease in airport passengers in April has been held to a modest 2.65%. As well as passengers switching to other London routes, this is also due to continued improvements to Northwest England and other UK regional routes. Services to Blackpool, Manchester and Liverpool were all up providing an increase in Northwest traffic of 1,260 passengers, virtually counterbalancing the net fall in London routes of 1,280. Whilst Bristol and Gloucester routes also showed increases, the loss of flights to Southampton mean a fall of over 1,150 to the South and Southwest. The Manx2.com Newcastle service increased by 18% and Blue Islands’ Jersey link also saw a small increase. Scottish destinations remained slightly down, as did flights to Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Recognising the importance of the restoration of the link with London City and capacity to South East England for future Airport passenger growth, Ann Reynolds remains optimistic about the future:
'We have worked round the clock to restore the London City link and it is thrilling to have the British national carrier returning to the Island and providing this critical route,'
'In addition, the unexpected but welcome announcement last month that easyJet will be operating services between Gatwick and the Isle of Man from October, will also provide an additional boost of seats to the South East. Whilst it will take time to regenerate the lost passenger traffic, the underlying trend remains positive and I am confident that this can be achieved.'
Please see downloadable documents to access Passenger figures for April 2012